When Kasongo Mwenzes sight blurred, it had immediately far-reaching consequences for himself and his environment. The 31-year-old farmer from Mushimba, a village about 80 km from Kolwezi, became completely blind in a few months’ time as a result of cataract in both eyes. Consequently, he could no longer cultivate his land and maintain his family. To make matters worse the villagers believed it was because of the influence of bad spirits and witchcraft. When it turned out that the young man could no longer provide for his wife and four children, his family abandoned him and fled the region to neighboring country Zambia.
Luckily, shortly after this event, the mobile clinic from the nearby located health center passed by and referred Kasongo Mwenze to the Mwangaza eye hospital in Kolwezi, supported by Light for the World Belgium. A few days and a double surgical intervention later, he could return to his village and work again, with clear eyesight.
Only a couple of months later, his dad, Kyembe Mwenze, became blind as well. Kasongo did not hesitate for a moment: “I sold our goat to pay for transportation. With the motorcycle it took us about 16 hours to get to Kolwezi.” On top of all this we got engine trouble. So I had to spend the night on the side of the road with my blind father. All I could think about was this: I have to get my dad to the hospital.”
When he had first returned to his village, Kasongo got quite a few amazed looks. The people didn’t believe the spell was really broken. He didn’t care for all those witchcraft stories. “For me, cataract is simply a disease that can be cured,” he explains. “Of course, when my father went blind, the reaction of the villagers was predictable. Since I was apparently cured, the spell must have passed on to my father. I am not concerned. I know what the medical team can do in the hospital and I am looking forward to return to the village with my father who will be able to recognize all the neighbors again.”
Waiting for the surgery theater to reopen
Unfortunately, when father and son Mwenze arrive at the eye hospital after a very tough ride, there are construction works going on. Therefore, they are sent back home to wait for father Kyembes treatment in a few weeks.
“No way,” exclaims Kasongo, “we will stay here”. He sells a couple of his chickens on the market at Kolwezi and provides his father with a meal every day. Patiently they both wait until the construction works are done and the surgery theater reopens.
Doctor Socrate Kapalu confirms cataract in the eyes of father Kyembe and schedules him for a surgery. The older man is not afraid of the intervention. “I want to heal and see again,” he says with a firm voice. “I very much look forward to returning to my village and working on the field.”
Sight-saving cataract surgery
The next day, Kyembe shuffles to the operating table, supported by a nurse. Not even fifteen minutes later a caramel-colored lump is removed: his clouded lens. No wonder the patient couldn’t see anymore. Doctor Socrate replaces the natural lens by an implant lens and the intervention is done. “His sight will immediately improve,” explains doctor Socrate. “but it might take a couple of days for his eyes to fully settle to the new implants.”
The following morning Kyembe Mwenze looks confident. A nurse gently removes the bandage and tests his vision. The first part of his eye test goes smoothly. He can easily count the number of fingers she is showing. A more detailed eye test is still a bit difficult but Kyempes vision will become less and less blurry until he sees clearly again.
In the corner of the examination room his son, Kasongo is beaming. Not even six months ago, he stood here himself in a blue patient gown, with eyes that just started to recognize the world around him once again. When the eyes of the father and son cross, two endless smiles appear.
One day later, Kyembes second eye is operated. Son Kasongo is positive about the future: “I can see again, my father can see again and I made contact with my family. Once I have returned my father to the village, I hope I can go and pick them up in Zambia. They can return now because I can take care of them again.”
Kyembe and Kasongo’s story is full of hope. Thanks to the quality eye care provided in the region with the support of Light for the World, father and son no longer live in darkness. Help us pursue our work, make a donation today. With 52 euros, you give back the sight to an adult. Every contribution counts.
Photos: Anneleen van Kuyck
Photos of Kasongo before and after surgery: Jorgo Kokkinidis